19.5.2002 Whitley Bridge

Match lost.

Casuals won the toss and batted first.

Casuals 168 for 7 off 40 overs.

Whitley Bridge 169 for 5 off 39 overs and 3 balls.

Batting:  Walker – 12; Wilson – 4; Hunter – 49; Wilkinson – 77; Smith – NO14;

Frost – 0; Harris – 0; Crossland – 1.

Bowling: Crossland 2-5 (5); Harris 1-22 (6); Wilson 0-29 (7); Frost 0-47 (7);

Smith 1-24 (6); Hunter 1-32 (4.5); Wilkinson 0-8 (2).

The team mustered at 14:30 hours, two men short.  Mark Windale, today’s captain, was on sick leave following a squash court wound and Marc Davis was AWOL, playing golf.  Being below par is becoming an unfortunate Casuals’ habit.  No return for Ward or Burgess, but there was a new man, Adam Frost, and Sam Steer came in off the reserve list.

Almondbury Casuals is a nomadic cricket team with seven captains.  As Mark Windale was hors de combat, an eighth was necessary.

‘But be not afraid of greatness: some men are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.’

Twelfth Night, act 2.

William Shakespeare

Its not clear whether he was born, self made or simply chosen by Greg Smith, the chairman, but Sam Wilkinson became the captain for the day.  Leading used to be a relatively straight forward Olympian affair.  If one ran faster or  jumped higher than the rest, one came in first.  Now its an integral component of corporate strategy and a cornerstone of the indecipherable management lexicon.  Practitioners who excel have always moved upward, bridging the gap with the management, despite the ever increasing risk of vertigo.  Good cricketers are no exception, but do they make good captains?  Is setting high standards by personal example sufficient to generate the crucial support of the troops, particularly when most of The Casuals make the Bolsheviks look like sissies?

The captain won the toss and elected to bat.  Following free and frank discussions, David Walker and Rupert Wilson agreed to open.  Walker was wearing a rather fetching pair of cricket slacks; taut and compact would be a fair description.  They were his son’s, mistakenly included during kit inspection.  Walker prefers colourful lycra numbers as sports underwear and today it showed, much to the delight of one elderly gentleman sat on the boundary.  It also seemed to please his peers, to the extent that it was deemed imperative to make a permanent record for the team archive.

Walker and Wilson would be the first to admit that they are not members of cricket’s sharp-shooting fraternity.  Nevertheless, slowly and doggedly, The Casuals’ campaign got underway.  Their partnership was eventually broken in the 11th over, when Walker was bowled off his legs.  18 runs had been scored.  Wilson followed in the 16th over and the Casuals were 37 for 2.

If the opening exchanges had felt like a siege, the next phase of the campaign was all out attack.  During the subsequent 18 overs, Rob Hunter and Sam Wilkinson put on 116 runs at slightly more than 6 and over.  This was the captain leading from the front.  For once, Hunter played the support role whilst his partner put the bowling to the sword.   56 of his 77 runs were boundaries, four of which were huge hits, straight  into the private domestic gardens situated at deep square leg.  This series of maximum scores raised the alarm for the elderly gentleman on boundary, mostly concerning the revenue consequences of lost balls and damaged roof slates.

The elderly gentleman himself was not beyond raising a few eyebrows amongst Casuals’ camp followers.  More than one person commented on the possibilities for misinterpreting his statements of partiality for Walker’s tight pink trousers as thinly disguised tentative amorous advances.

The captain meanwhile continued to plunder the bowling, albeit with a slight change in style once he was he had passed the fifty mark.  The boundaries became fewer in number, to be replaced by a deft touch around the greens, chipping on several occasions to within feet of a fielder.  On another occasion, holing out would have brought a cheer from the gallery, but today, thankfully there were no birdies.

When in the seventies, he seemed to tire, and on 77, he was bowled leaving a straight one.

The innings’ remaining five overs were an anti-climax, the score moving from 154 to 168 with the loss of a further 4 wickets, including unfortunately, Adam Frost, caught at short fine leg making his debut.

A light tea of sandwiches and cakes was then taken, accompanied by the sparky banter that emerges when mature and intelligent men share the pleasures and discomforts of each other’s company.  After returning to the changing room, Walker was heard to make a polite enquiry of the captain as to whether the wicket keeping position remained vacant, or whether one of the opposition was pencilled in for the task.  The captain readily admitted the omission and wondered whether Walker himself would be available to take on the arduous responsibility.  This was the captain sharing a common purpose and gaining consensus.  Reclad in cricket slacks and equipped with pads and gloves, Walker took the field in a more circuitous route than his colleagues, thereby eschewing the romantic attentions of the elderly gentleman on the boundary.

The Whitley Bridge innings was a mirror image of The Casuals’ effort.  There were two principle performers who prospered, supported in the main by innocent youth who, one trusts, will have their best innings ahead of them.

The Casuals’ fielding was understrength, the captain having declined the kind offer of assistance from the opposition and therein lay the essential difference between the two sides.  Despite the inequality The Casuals displayed resilience of character, executing a surprising suppleness in both rotation and involution.  Even as the captain’s requests for changes in the field came thick and fast, The Casuals went about their business contentedly and with no thought for themselves.  Steer notably was eager with deceptive pace at deep third man and showed enterprise when fielding with his right knee.  When Wilson was invited to regain his original post, having strayed from the breeze blocks, he willingly moved the three inches needed.  Harris was inventive as always, making good use of his back and the space between him and the ball.  His coiffure this week was augmented by the dark shadow of chin stubble.  Were he to be auditioned for the role of snooker ball, he could play pink, white and black all at the same time.

Throughout these fielding exertions, the captain was fulsome with praise and gentle in reproach.

Two catches were put down, a caught and bowled by Wilson and one to the captain at wide mid-off.  Both were waist high and slightly to their left and both seemed to be safely apprehended, yet they escaped, leaving the protagonists disappointed.  Wilson, in particular, was visibly distressed at his misfortune.

The bowlers rotated regularly, the captain continuously exhorting them to remain in a constant state of readiness for when the call finally came.   Adam Frost, on is debut, bowled 9 overs without luck, including 3 maidens and the captain’s spilt catch.  The most attractive figures were compiled by Bill Crossland who claimed 2 wickets for 5 runs in his 5 overs.

The summary at the head of this piece suggests the game was a close run thing.  That this tension was experienced on the field was made apparent by the sight of Walker and Wilson calculating the probable final total as each over came to a close.  One can only speculate what might have been had The Casuals managed a full complement.  They certainly did not lack leadership the qualities of which were on full view for all to enjoy.

The captain expressed his delight by buying ‘the few’ a pint apiece.  He left unanswered what he might have done, had the team won.

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